Peer Review Congress 2022

September 11, 2022

Chicago, United States

Assessing PubMed Metatag Usage for Plain Language Summary Discoverability

Objective PubMed is a popular platform for accessing biomedical research.1 When tagged correctly, text-based and concise plain language summaries (PLSs) hosted on PubMed can maximize discoverability by a broader audience. This function was introduced in 2019 and allows retrospective tagging of pre-2019 records. Open access (OA) publishing also enhances discoverability, which increases publication accessibility and usage.2 The aim was to (1) determine the proportion of PubMed records correctly using the PLS tag and reasons for incorrect usage and (2) establish the OA status of journals publishing PLSs on PubMed.

Design The entire PubMed database was downloaded (February 9, 2022) and searched for PLSs indexed with an XML tag in the Other Abstract field. Records were deduplicated, and incorrectly tagged PLSs were programmatically excluded for incorrect tag usage (ie, non-PLS content) and confirmed with manual spot checks. Remaining PLSs were categorized by journal and assessed for overall OA status using Journal Selector (Sylogent LLC) or information on journal websites for those PLSs not indexed on Journal Selector.

Results There were 3217 records identified with an XML tag in the Other Abstract field, of which just over half (1644 51.10%) were published in 2021 (annual prevalence of 0.09% 1644 of 1,769,389). Of the 3217 records, there were 470 (14.61%) with incorrect tag usage. Categories of incorrect usage included non-English scientific abstract (137 records 4.26%); duplication of or a greater than 90% similarity score with the scientific abstract in the Abstract field (32 0.99%); absence of a scientific abstract in the Abstract field (99 3.08%); other non-PLS content (including URLs, novelty statements, and article highlights) (197 6.12%); and no content (5 0.16%). In addition to these 470 excluded records, there were 124 records using the tag to index both non-English scientific abstracts and English PLSs. Of 105 journals correctly using the tag for PLSs, 30 (28.57%) were full or gold OA journals, 75 journals (71.43%) offered OA options, and none were closed or subscription-only journals.

Conclusions Despite the use of the

tag increasing over time,3 records using this tag represent a minority of all PubMed records, and the tag is used incorrectly for several reasons. There is an unmet need for explicit guidance on both the processes of indexing and the correct usage of the tag, which could help improve correct tagging and uptake. Of note, all PLSs published on PubMed to date come from journals allowing for OA publishing, which aids discoverability and accessibility. Limitations of this analysis include lack of PLS quality assessment, small sample size largely owing to low publisher uptake and tagging, and confounding effects of OA on discoverability. Ultimately, these findings highlight an opportunity for journals to increase the impact of their content and reach a broader audience.


  1. Williamson PO, Minter CIJ. Exploring PubMed as a reliable resource for scholarly communications services. J Med Libr Assoc. 2019;107(1):16-29. doi:10.5195/jmla.2019.433
  2. Li H, Liu L, Wang X. The open access effect in social media exposure of scholarly articles: a matched-pair analysis. J Informetrics. 2021;15(3):101154. doi:10.1016/j. joi.2021.101154
  3. Gattrell W, Wager K, Sheikh N, Chisholm A. Prevalence and characteristics of plain language summaries indexed in PubMed: original abstracts from the 2022 European Meeting of ISMPP. Curr Med Res Opin. 2022;38(suppl 1):25-45.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures At the time of abstract development, William Gattrell was an employee and shareholder of or held stock or stock options in Ipsen, Milton Park, UK, and is now an employee of Bristol Myers Squibb, Uxbridge, UK. Valérie Philippon was an employee and shareholder of or held stock or stock options in Takeda Development Center Americas Inc, Cambridge, MA, USA, and is now an employee of UCB, Cambridge, MA, USA. All other authors are employees of their respective affiliations. Slávka Baróniková, Namit Ghildyal, Radha Narayan, and Catherine Skobe may be shareholders or hold stock or stock options for their respective affiliations.

Funding/Support This work was produced by representatives of Open Pharma. Open Pharma is a multisponsor collaboration facilitated by Oxford PharmaGenesis Ltd and received sponsorship funding from Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP, Boehringer Ingelheim International GmbH, ER Squibb & Sons LLC, F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG, Galápagos NV, Gilead Sciences Inc, GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals SA, Ipsen Biopharm Ltd, Janssen Global Services LLC, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Novartis Pharma AG, Novo Nordisk A/S, Pfizer Inc, Takeda Development Center Americas Inc, and UCB Biopharma SRL.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor This abstract represents the work of the individual authors and not of their respective affiliations. The organizations providing sponsorship funding to Open Pharma were not involved in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the abstract; or decision to submit the abstract for presentation.

Acknowledgment Editorial support was provided by Velissaria Vanna of Oxford PharmaGenesis, Oxford, UK.


SlidesTranscript English (automatic)

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